Inception poster
Not the most exciting poster ever...

As a species, we’re remarkably preoccupied with issues of life and death. That’s all that matters, isn’t it? The Burden of Being. Religion, philosophy and art are only barely enough to contain our collective existential angst. We hardly need help in that area, yet our natural curiosity pushes us ever onwards in exploring the outer fringes of reality through various media.

There are bound to be comparisons between Inception and The Matrix, the two most notable examples of such works in recent memory, so let’s get it out of the way first. Both movies depend on the concept of layered reality – that is, what we perceive to be real may actually be a dream or a computer simulation, respectively, and other layers exist that sit above or below what we mistakenly believe to be singular. They both also rely on the notion of shared reality, where many people are able to simultaneously participate in the same dream or illusion.

So even though the plot, style and pretty much everything else is completely different, their philosophical underpinnings are pretty similar. Both movies lead us, the audience, to question the nature of reality and what we believe to be real. Yes, Inception is deeply intellectual so don’t go into it without your thinking hats on, lest you end up falling asleep and dream about the movie instead (or was your dream the real movie?)

Inception - altered gravity
Jamiroquai, eat your heart out!

Dominic “Dom” Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an Extractor – a thoughts thief if you will, who has the ability to hack peoples’ minds to steal information. He’s also trying to clear his name from the murder of his wife so that he can see his kids again. A powerful and influential businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), offers Dom redemption in return for successfully implanting an idea into the mind of competitor Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) – an inception. However, this impossible task is made even moreso by Dom’s inner demons.

Many people who’ve seen Inception think it’s the best thing ever. Based on the strength of the story alone, it definitely is, but like a lot of reviews that I’ve read, the movie seems to lack a certain… something. For me, it’s the casting.

Inception - Leonardo DiCaprio
Why so serious?

Leo. Not much needs to be said here. The guy’s a great actor, and I’m sure some of the ladies find him very attractive, but as usual his performance carries with it too much gravitas. It makes the emotional experience of watching movies with him in it a lot like trying to swim through jelly. Then there’s Ellen Page (Juno, Whip It). While I adore her, her appearance in Inception was an odd casting choice. Alongside the other older (and taller) members of the ensemble, the combination of her mature demeanour and her impish youthfulness makes her appear as a little gnome. A different casting choice might have allowed for a more nuanced interpretation of Dom’s relationships, although I can see why Nolan might have deliberately wanted to avoid that, given that there’s plenty enough for the audience to keep track of without adding even more layers.

The spinning top from Inception's final scene
What does it mean?

Last but no means least, the ending. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you, but debates rage on as to the relevance of the final scene. Personally, I think that focusing on it takes away from what I believe is the real question that the movie is asking – why aren’t we satisfied with our own reality?


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